("I hate to go and leave this pretty si-ight!" :))
Well, the time is here to sign off from blogging. For the foreseeable future at least. It's six weeks or so shy of three years that I started this blog. 2930 posts later I can say that it's been quite a wonderful experience. I'm especially grateful to all the wonderful people I've gotten to know through this medium.
Unless I hear otherwise, the blog itself will stay up on the web. Other notes:
Facebook: I created a profile for Gashwin on Facebook that will probably be taken down. The real me is on Facebook already.
Del.icio.us: Links to what I'm currently reading, on the right sidebar.
Newsletter: While I can't blog (I believe it's the public nature of the blogosphere that's the real problem), for those who're interested in the further adventures of Gashwin Gomes, are invited to drop me an email (gashwingomesAThotmailDOTcom) to sign up for a periodic newsletter that I'll be sending out.
Most importantly, please keep my vocation in your prayers, and continue to pray that more men will respond to the call to serve the Lord and His Church in the ministerial priesthood.
So, au revoir! Arrivederci! Ciao! Dos vidaniya! Khuda Hafiz!
Or, as we say in Gujarati Aavjo! Which roughly translates to what we say in the South as well: "Y'all come back now!"
Karis kai eirene,
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
("I hate to go and leave this pretty si-ight!" :))
Arunachal Pradesh is a state in the remote northeastern corner of India. Its border with China is disputed, and even Indian citizens from outside need permission to travel into the state. This line from a recent article on religious freedom in India by John Allen caught my eye: "In the state of Arunachal Pradesh on the eastern border with China, where Catholicism arrived barely 25 years ago, there are today 180,000 Catholics out of a total population of 800,000."
I was intrigued: normally one hears about such increases in the Christian population due to the missionary efforts of evangelicals (can one say Nepal?). It was unusual, to say the least, to see such a dedication to mission to the unchurched by Catholics.
What's fascinating about the story of the rise of the Church in Arunachal Pradesh is that it was lead by lay people. Here is an interview with Bishop Kattrukudiyil of the Diocese of Itanagar (the capital) published by Aid to the Church in Need.
He explained how the Church in Arunachal Pradesh was unique, in that it spread thanks largely to lay faithful because of the ban on missionaries from outside the region.There are now two Diocese in the state.
He said it was only thanks to contact with a dynamic parish on the border with neighbouring Assam that Catholicism was able to enter the region.
The parish in Hamutty attracted visitors from Arunachal Pradesh who returned home as catechists and soon the Church spread to the point where in the early 1990s converts became government ministers and insisted that priests finally be allowed to work in the region.
The first church was built only in 1993. According to this UCAN news report, Mother Teresa was present at the dedication. In July of this year, a famous missionary (Br. Prem Bhai, a Benedictine lay brother) who had worked zealously to spread the faith, died. This is from the brief CNA article about Br. Prem:
Brother Prem Bhai, a Benedictine missionary who endured repeated arrest, imprisonment, beatings and wore disguises to evangelize in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, died on June 28 in Colombo, Sri Lanka after suffering a heart attack the previous day.(Here's a report of his funeral, which drew thousands of the faithful. A similar report from UCAN)
For almost 25 years Brother Prem's missionary work in Arunachal Pradesh continued despite government laws that subjected those caught to fines of 10,000 rupees and two years imprisonment.
"Police always used to follow me. I was arrested eight times and imprisoned five times for preaching. I never stayed in jail for more than a day though – the Christian people always managed to get me released," Brother Prem said in a 2006 interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). ACN supported Brother Prem's work by building a prayer center.
Remarkably, Arunachal Pradesh is one of six states that has anti-conversion laws on the books.
Northeastern India is culturally (and racially) different from the rest of the country. Society is tribal. Caste doesn't really exist. The languages are Sino-Tibetan. Since the 19th century, Christian missionary work has borne much fruit ... for instance, the state of Nagaland is largely Baptist!
At the bookstore of the retreat center in Atlanta I came across this slim volume by Mark Brumley, published in 2002 by Catholic Answers, with a Preface by Avery Cardinal Dulles and a Foreword by Archbishop Charles Chaput. The subtitle grabbed my eye as well: "The Seven Deadly Sins of Catholic Apologetics and Evangelization." I haven't gotten to this yet, but the contents list these seven deadlies, and I can't wait to dig in:
- Apologetical Gluttony
- Reducing the Faith to Apologetics and Apologetics to Arguments
- Confusing the Faith with Our Arguments for It
- Friendly Fire
- Trying to "Win"
The brief Preface by Cardinal Dulles is a gem of a summary of the development of apologetics in the twentieth century.
The fortunes of apologetics have been volatile indeed. From the sixteenth century to the nineteenth it practically devoured theology. Not only did theologians write books on apologetics; they tended to give an apologetical slant to almost every theological treatise, as though the reasonable person unfailingly could be persuaded to accept what was being taught. The freedom and grace-given character of faith were overlooked; the mysteries of faith were made all too accessible. Especially in liberal Protestantism, the doctrines of the faith were diluted so as to make them credible to supposedly modern men and women.
After the First World War, Karl Barth and others protested against this trend and launched the movement sometimes known as neo-orthodoxy. Revelation, they claimed, must be accepted on its own terms, not on the basis of human arguments. God is not bound to speak and act within narrow limits of human reason.
Toward the middle of the twentieth century, Barthian influences flowed into Catholicism. Eschewing apologetics, Catholics began to speak the language of neo-orthodoxy. They refused to give reasons for believing. This trend entailed some dangers. Christian belief now began to look like an arbitrary stance -- a mere matter of family tradition, personal temperament, or sentiment. Catholics lost interest in challenging others to accept the faith. Evangelization sank to a low ebb. The flow of converts into the Church, which had been vigorous in the first half of the century, slowed down to a trickle.
In the United States, the tradition of Christian apologetics was maintained by Fundamentalists and by many Evangelicals. They insisted that there were solid arguments for accepting Christianity as attested by the Bible and the early creeds. They combined reliance on reason with firm commitment to the central Christian dogmas, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation. They were as orthodox as the neo-orthodox, or rather more so. And their efforts met with considerable success. They sent missionaries all over the world, and as a result their churches grew rapidly, sometimes by converting nominal Catholics to their brand of Christianity.
Some Catholics in the United States saw this situation as a call to action. This was especially true of Catholics who had a Protestant Evangelical background, such as Peter Kreeft. recalling that the Catholic Church has a long apologetical tradition of its own, he, together with Karl Keating and a growing body of colleagues, have built fruitfully on the work of English-speaking apologists of the early and mid-twentieth century: Catholics such as G. K. Chesterton and Frank Sheed and Anglicans such as C. S. Lewis. These outstanding writers avoided the pitfalls into which apologetics have often fallen. They cannot be accused of tailoring the faith to fit what reason can prove. They knew better than to think that all the mysteries of the faith could be directly proved. And they escaped the "sacred dishonesty" that has prompted some to bend the facts of history so as to conceal the sins and errors of Catholics in the past.
In writing about the seven deadly sins of apologetics, Brumley is not rejecting apologetics but rather defending it from itself. He shows how an apologetics that seeks to prove too much can undermine the very faith it is intended to support. He also shows how an apologetics that builds on reason alone, instead of deferring to the word of God, can impoverish the faith of Christians, as did liberal Protestantism. In his last chapter he shows how apologetics can be effective when it adheres to the fullness of the faith and respects the primacy of love.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Blogger and friend Mike Aquilina mailed me a copy of this book ("Faith under Fire") a few weeks back with the hope that I could read and review it while the blog was still running. He also included two DVDs, all of which he had received from a priest friend in India. Alas, I've been traveling (10 cities, 4 states, both coasts, since July 26), and haven't had time to view the DVDs, and have only been able to skim through the book.
"Faith Under Fire" documents the systematic attacks on Indian Catholics in the Kandhamals district of the eastern state of Orissa that exploded over Christmas 2007, and the abysmal lack of any attempt by the Indian state to protect its citizens or try and bring them to justice. (I've blogged on the violence against Christians in Orissa on a few occasions.)
The book was prepared by the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Catholic Church in Orissa and is published by Media House publishers in Delhi earlier this year. (The back cover lists a website that doesn't really seem to work. Email: mediahousedelhiATgmailDOTcom)
The nearly 400 page volume is divided into five sections:
- The facts on the situation in Kandhamals, with essays and reports that try to establish what occurred
- Statements and responses from members of the Christian community in Orissa, including Archbishop Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar and Sr. Nirmala MC (of the Missionaries of Charity)
- Essays that give a background to the rise of sectarian violence, including the heinous Graham Staines murder. (In Indian English, such incidents are described as "communal" and "communalism" means "sectarian" or "promoting sectarian hatred.")
- An examination of the Wadhwa Commission Report (which investigated the Staines murder and has continued to be perceived by Indian Christians as being distorted and unfair), as well as essays that examine the controversy surrounding conversion.
- A section that documents several first hand reports of the violence, including first person accounts of riot victims.
- Two appendices that include the text of a United Nations report on the Freedom of Religion in India and the report of the National Commission of Minorities on the Kandhamals violence, as well as color photographs that document the violence, and a section with fact sheets about the region.
Any reflection on the bleak and bloody Christmas suffered by fellow Indian Christians in the eastern Indian state of Orissay in December 2007, requires the interrogation of several issues. The muted political response across the political spectrum, the absence of political outrage or any sustained campaigns and statements (two bland questions in Parliament during the first half of the budget session reflects how far removed debates in the lower house of the Indian Parliament are to the political reality of India). The message is loud and clear. India's tiny ... Christian religious minority are too minuscule to matter. With all the power and prestige that Christian institutes of learning and education enjoy, with all the quantitative and qualitative services that Christian institutes of health and nurturing provide, Indian democracy, laced as it is today with the ... racist power of hate, has been reduced to a game of numbers.At first glance "Faith Under Fire" is a commendable attempt to rigorously document this latest bout of anti-Christian persecution. It also presents a clear exposition of the commonly heard contention that the issue of "conversions" is a paper tiger, and that the real underlying issue has to do with human rights and development. As it is presented, this book is not written for the average middle class Indian (assuming he or she reads English), but is another attempt to raise awareness about the plight of India's Christians, both within India, but, I suspect, especially overseas.
To take the interrogation further, no spontaneous suo moto judicial action followed the violent attacks on Christian villages in Kandhamal district that rendered 30,000 citizens overnight into refugees living in camps, 101 churches destroyed and properties worth lakhs ("lakh" or "lac" = 100,000) of rupees destroyed. Despite Articles 14 and 21 (of the Indian Constitution), the right to life and equality under the law are fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution being serious under threat and attack. [sic]
Most depressing in this all pervasive climate of complicity, was the deafening silence from India's conscience, its citizenry, you and me, as humanitarian relief was actually denied by a calculating Orissa state government, and a mute and impotent Central dispensation looked on.
When it comes to the Indian state, I am afraid I am just too cynical to see this having any serious direct effect. As the ongoing conflict over the Amarnath shrine in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir shows, India's political leaders care very little, if at all, about the well being of citizens in general, and it seems, India today is just too desensitized to violence and human misery.
We just don't care.
Incredible India indeed.
... is a new religious community in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, that grew out of the ministry of the folks who do a variety of work directly with the poor. Lots of thought-provoking insights at the Homeless in America blog.
I know one of the founders -- he visited the Paulists for a discernment retreat last year, and we've stayed in touch on and off since then. He's a holy man with a deep love for the Lord, and clearly with a call to serve Him in the suffering and needy.
I'm not entirely certain about the canonical status of this new group, but wanted to post something on here before I stop blogging. The following is from an email I received last Saturday:
Dear Sister or Brother in Christ,For inquiries, or to support this worthy endeavor, please visit the Homeless in America blog for contact information, or email Br. Gary Joseph at ServantsoftheFatherATYmailDOTcom.
Last Saturday marked the official inaugural Mass of Servants of the Father of Mercy as a new religious community dedicated to serving the homeless in America. Although most on our team have already been serving the poorest of the poor under bridges and in alleys for many years now, we have decided we can be of even more service by formalizing our Charity.
For the most part, myself and a few others have been privately funding the ministry, but our dreams of bringing Catholic spiritually and charity to our homeless will require a more substantial effort. Immediately we need to establish our offices and start a religious vocation house as we continue ministering to our homeless in the streets. Our future plans include opening St. Joseph’s Inn, a homeless career recovery house.
We need your help!
Please open the attached pledge donation form, print it and whisper a prayer as to how you can immediately help solidify the establishment of our offices and formation house for religious vocations.
38 year old priest murdered in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. (Asianews)
On the night of August 16th his body was found on the roadside by a group of people, not far from the village of Balampilly; the body of the Carmelite of Mary Immaculate carried wounds to the face while the hands and legs had been crushed and the eyes gouged out. His motorbike was found one kilometre on from the body.
Driving up I-95 yesterday I hit weekend traffic north of Richmond. Averaging about 40 mph, the highway was clogged. I grow incredibly impatient in such situations. I turned to the AM dial to see if this was just volume related, or whether there was a wreck ahead. I couldn't find any traffic information, but I heard something as I surfed past a Christian station where a preacher was holding forth. I heard an Indian accent poking through American intonation. Normally, I'd have clicked right on, but this intrigued me, so I stopped and listened to the last five minutes of this particular talk. The speaker was relating a story of a conversation with a well-established entrepreneur, who had asked to talk with him. This businessman could not believe, and kept coming back to the the problem of evil in the world -- so much suffering, so much injustice and so on. The speaker tried coming at this from various philosophical angles, and this went on for a while. A colleague who was with him, interrupted their discussion, turned to the businessman and said, "What about the evil that is in your heart?"
This was the main theme of the talk. The only real way to combat the evil "out there" is to combat the evil inside.
For some reason, this really struck me -- highlighting my own continuing struggle with temptation and sin, my need for God's grace, and my own call to continue to grow in holiness. I think it was Chesterton who said something along the lines that religion was the cure for evil, the evil in man's heart. And Fr. Hecker (the founder of the Paulists), learned early on, as he was becoming a Christian, that his efforts to promote workers' rights and justice at Tammany Hall in New York would ultimately only work if he first was converted himself, and worked on transforming mens' souls.
This is not to say that one only looks inwards, and that Christians aren't called to work to transform society around them. Obviously not. It's not an either/or, though. However, Christians cannot neglect interior conversion -- for it was to heal our souls from sin that Our Lord came.
The evangelist on the radio was of course Ravi Zacharias. I'd never heard him at all, though I've encountered his books once in a while in the religion aisle at B&N. I don't know much else about him or his ministry. This one sounds rather interesting right now -- "Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend"
Respected apologist Ravi Zacharias was once sharing his faith with a Hindu when the man asked: "If the Christian faith is truly supernatural, why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians I know?" The question hit hard, and this book is an answer. Its purpose is to equip Christians everywhere to simultaneously defend the faith and be transformed by it into people of compassion
Friday, August 15, 2008
Today is the 61st anniversary of India's independence from Britain. Family friend Shreekant Sambrani mulls India's spectacular economic growth in an I-Day column for the Business Standard. This part is important to point out, especially to all those who equate market reforms only with unmitigated evil:
Second, poverty, once a defining adjective for India, is on the decline. It is now not confined only to official statistics, the latest of which point out that for the first time the number of the poor is actually falling and at a rapid rate at that. The poverty ratio in 2005-06 was 24 per cent, with an actual decline of over 20 million in the head count of 280 million over the preceding year (Planning Commission internal assessment reported in The Indian Express, July 22, 2008). One can see it visually as well in travels in the countryside, including relatively remote areas. Let us accept this remission without entering into a debate as to what caused it.There is of course a "and yet" in India's story. The column suggests that this can be tackled by greater job growth and lesser dependence on agriculture. And then there's this:
And finally to the rising spirits. The captains of industry may exult in it, but we are still an anarchistic people as public events, intolerance of any divergence, and the lack of discipline and public morality abundantly make clear. The eminent historian, Dr Harbans Mukhia, had observed in a luminous essay some years ago that the world over, development means a greater sense of responsibility and self-control, while in India, the exact reverse seems to be happening.Another reminder that markets and capitalism are not ends, but means. The culture -- and the values of that culture -- are crucial to integrated and equitable development
Assumpta est Maria in coelum, gaudent angeli, collaudantes benedicunt Dominum, alleluia.
On this day, 14 years ago, I was baptized into the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and received the Holy Eucharist for the first time.
Alleluia! Happy Feast!
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The whole Making Disciples seminar has been simply amazing. I'll be blogging on that in more detail when I get some time (which won't be for a while. I'm essentially on the road till next week!), but wanted to mention this simply amazing apostolate that we heard about today.
Barbara Elliott is the author of Street Saints: Renewing America's Cities, and works at the Center for Renewal in Houston. She gave a presentation on ministry to the poor and how that relates to evangelization and discipleship, and can (and has been) ways for congregations to renewal themselves spiritually as well. One particular ministry she talked in detail about was Kids Hope USA, which pairs mentors in congregations with at-risk children in public schools, the basic idea being that these children need someone who can love them, and be their friend, as well as provide some tutoring or other support needs. The mentors making a commitment to work with a particular child, one hour a week, for one year. The results have been simply astounding, and the program is in place in with congregations of various denominations in 29 states.
Check it out!
(Incidentally, Barbara is the member of an Anglican Use parish: not the kind of congregation one normally thinks of as being involved in such kinds of social outreach. It's sad that congregations one tends to compartmentalize things such as a proper attention to liturgy and outreach to the community. Everything should be organically connected. And, I'm more and more convinced, we need to reclaim a vision of our parishes as places, or schools, of discernment, training in discipleship, prayer, and listening to the Holy Spirit -- with the liturgy at the center of this -- out of which amazing things can flow.)
There's been some amazing stories shared this week, both from participants, as well as stories of the kinds of creative apostolates that are unleashed when disciples cooperate actively with the Holy Spirit, and discern their own particular vocation, calls and gifts.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
[H/t Adam] Heh. And while we're at it:
Q. How are the Charlestonians and the Chinese alike?
A. They both eat rice and worship their ancestors.
Q. How many Charlestonians does it take to change a lightbulb?
... where the Ashley and the Cooper meet to form the Atlantic Ocean.
[Still having a blast at the conference in Spokane. We have the morning off and are going to go across the border to Idaho. Famous Potatoes and all that!:)]
Monday, August 11, 2008
Greetings from Spokane y'all -- the Making Disciples conferences is simply awesome. Lots of new stuff, lots to chew on and digest, great fellow attendees and a beautiful location (the Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat Center just north of the city).
Pl. say a prayer that the paperwork necessary for me to register my car in GA arrives this week. GA gives one 30 days to register one's vehicle. And they take forever to process new vehicle title papers without which once can't register a new car. The dealer said it should be in before Aug 15 ... but without that, I can't register my car ... and I'm not sure what to do if it's not in by this weekend. Ugh.
Posted by Gashwin at 11:24 PM
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Heading to SEA in a few to catch an Alaska Airlines flight to GEG (Spokane). Alaska 692 to be precise. They have a partnership with NW, so I'll get freq. flier credit. I hope they also recognize partner Elite status, and not charge me for checking in a bag! :)
I'll be in Spokane till Thursday morning, attending the Making Disciples (pdf link) seminar of the Catherine of Siena Institute. No idea about internet access ...